“Raving Radicals” pushes onward!

Greetings, readers of Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax. Rejoice, for two more installments to “Part Three: Obscurantism and Liberation” have recently been made available for your reading enjoyment and pleasure.

Expect the unexpected in Chapter 32 “Unexpected Betrayal”. Could someone really have the audacity to commit treason against the ever virtuous Radical Book Club and their Santa Muerte worshipping cohorts . . . or might this betrayal refer to someone within the Johnson regime’s Inner Cirle of H.I.A. agents? Read and find out!

In Chapter 33 we reach the long awaited “Assault on the School of the Americas”. You’ll also get to spend some more time with the militarist dictator you love to hate: the one, the only, General Johnson.

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Cinema and Slavery in Romania

By Daniel K. Buntovnik

In Eastern Europe, a silence long held is being disrupted, by the film industry, no less!

aferimposterRecently I seized the opportunity to go and see Aferim! (2015), which is [virtually] the first film ever to depict the enslavement of Rroma (Rromani people) that occurred for some five hundred years in the present day territories of Romania.* Director Radu Jude, writing in conjunction with novelist Florin Lăzărescu, set out to develop a screenplay that would elucidate a historical period which Romanian society is for the most part reticent to acknowledge — much less critically engage with. Here these two have defied the norm and succeeded. For that we should all say Bravo! to them and their award-winning movie. In an interview with MEDIAFAX, Jude cites Țiganiada (1812) by Ioan Budai-Deleanu and Ciocoii vechi și noi (1862) by Nicolae Filimon as being among those few Romanian literary works which do make mention of this slavery, though largely only in passing. The void is not less existent in the English-speaking world, where historiographies and critical analyses of exploitation and domination have also tended to leave the matter untouched. For example, treatment of slavery in Romania (and enslavement of Rromani people elsewhere) are noticeably absent from Orlando Patterson’s landmark work Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (1982), “the first full-scale comparative study of the nature of slavery”, as well as from Edward Saïd’s Orientalism (1978).  An exception includes Ian Hancock’s The Pariah Syndrome: An Account of Gypsy Slavery and Persecution (1987).

Set in the year 1835 and in Wallachia (or Țara Românească–“Romanian Country”–one of the territories which would later unite to form the modern day nation-state Romania), the main protagonists of the film are a father-son duo called Costandin and Ioniță. Costandin is a bounty hunter whose objective is to capture a runaway slave named Carfin and return him to his master, a boyar (nobleman) by the name of Iordache. Their quest takes them through the Romanian countryside with its villages, mountains, forests, plains, peasants, priests, and țigani–a Romanian language racial slur used to refer to Rroma which has no exact equivalent in English, but which is usually translated as “Gypsies”. (In fact, țigan comes from the Greek term athinganoi, the name for members of what was a religious sect in the Byzantine Empire, which means “untouchable”, while Gypsy is a diminutive form of Egyptian.) Eventually Costandin and Ioniță track Carfin to the neighboring county where they must bribe a local official in order to be directed to the home of a peasant couple who are harboring him along with another fugitive Gypsy, a young boy named Țintiric. Soon enough, Carfin reveals to his captors that the real reason for which he fled from Iordache’s estate was not because he stole some money (as had been alleged) but because Iordache’s wife, Sultana, seduced him while he was watering horses in the stable.

Regarding the significance of the film’s title, it might be interesting to partake in an exercise of pseudo-etymology. The Romanian word aferim resembles the word afară, which means “outside” or “out” and can also be used in the sense of “(get) out!” or even “kicked out/deported” (dat afară). Romanian verbs are conjugated in the first person plural (we) with a suffix ending in -m, so if afară was to be converted into a verb infinitive, you could anticipate that aferim might signify “Let’s get out!”. But aferim actually means “bravo” or “well done”. What could there possibly be to applaud in a film about slavery? Ironically, far from being a call to get out from the yoke of slavery, “Aferim!” is what Iordache tells Costandin when the latter returns his “crow” to him. Dictionaries list the word aferim as a Turkicism (one out of a number of words imprinted onto the Romanian language from the period when Wallachia and Moldavia were under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire).

While critics Veronica Lazăr and Andrei Gorzo have proclaimed Aferim! to be “something new in Romanian cinema”, they and others have also touted the film as a Western à la Vlach, pointing to an apparent influence from this genre observable in its frequent shots of expansive landscapes with men on horseback and wagons. Here Gypsies have even been analogized to American Indians. This is hardly groundbreaking in and of itself, since the conventions and tropes of this seemingly quintessentially American film genre were long ago appropriated (and, to an extent, subverted) by Europeans on both sides of the Iron Curtain, giving us the Spaghetti Western and the Red Western, also known as the Eastern (which in its Romanian form gave us bizarre blockbusters like The Prophet, the Gold, and the Transylvanians [1978]). Both movements had significant overlaps with the Revisionist Western: a set of films that emerged alongside the postmodernist turn that tend towards undermining the narrative stupidity of the Wild West as the rightful domain of the white settler. Inevitably, Aferim! has also drawn comparisons to more recent American movies like 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained, but it is certainly much more than a rehash of these films. Jude never loses sight of the brutal particularities of the 19th century Wallachian context.

Besides being described as a Western, Aferim! has also been called a drama, a tragicomedy, an adventure/road film, and a historical film. While these are all valid ways to describe Aferim!, it ought be recognized as more than the sum of its parts. As cinéma engagé, Aferim! engages society with its past, present, and future.

But why does this historical episode need revisiting — and what is really being revision-ized?

Insofar as this particular historical period has until recently remained unvisited by cinema, we are not coming back to anything, but approaching something new. What we do revisit in Aferim! are actually present day social attitudes (in particular, antiziganism, misogyny, even antisemitism). By delivering a fictional narrative situated within a past reality, it reveals what are unmistakably the roots of these attitudes. The ubiquitousness of disdain for Rromani people embodied in the characters’ frequent slinging of the term cioară (“crow”), for example, bears witness to continuity between past and present. Jude contends that the choice to film Aferim! in black and white functions as a signal of its irreality, marking the rupture between the reality of Gypsy slavery and the constructedness of any revisitation to this time preceding the invention of motion pictures. However, paradoxically, this actually, in a way, adds to “the sentiment that one is seeing a live transmission from Wallachia, 1835” because black and white images have come to represent a generalized bygone era whose boundaries become more and more indeterminate as we leave it further and further behind.

The Revisionist aspect of the film also means pushing back against what little narrative does exist acknowledging the enslavement of Rromani (and Tatar) people at the hands of the Romanian Orthodox Church, nobles, and principality-states. In Romanian society, the “official” narrative is one that downplays and minimizes the reality of Rroma enslavement. Its main tactics are to highlight alleged fundamental theoretical differences between sclavie (slavery) and robie (a form of servitude which some contend has no direct translation into English) in an effort to show that no, there was no slavery in the Romanian territories: only robie. This stress of difference between sclavie and robie which denies their synonymy, is at the same time accompanied by a playing up of the similarities between robie and feudal serfdom. Aferim! demolishes these pedantic arguments by laying bare the chasm of difference in social statuses ascribed to țigani and Wallachian/Vlach peasants. In this regard, Aferim! is a “Revisionist Eastern”.

Despite its orientation towards the past, the film is clearly forward thinking. At one point, as Costandin and his son travel on horseback with their captive Gypsies, Costandin wonders out loud about what people will say about them in hundreds of years. He asks (and I paraphrase): Will future society revere us, their forefathers who have blazed the trails for them? Will they speak of us with a sense of gratitude for what we’ve done and what we’ve left them with? Will they say anything about us at all? Costandin answers his own questions: No, and if the future generations do say anything at all, it will only be to curse us. The bounty hunter’s musings here have a measure of ambiguity to them. In Costandin’s interrogatory monologue about relations between the living and the dead, the dead could be him and his son (and the larger ethno-religious community they’re a part of), but the dead could just as easily be the Gypsy slaves in their captivity. Costandin’s comments seem to reflect the research of ethnologist Patrick Williams, who presented findings about his time spent with Manush (Rromanies of Germanic [Sinti] origin in France) in the book “Nous, on n’en parle pas” (1993). For Williams, the way that the dominant French society erases and renders Rromani communities invisible was reflected in the way these Sinti Rromanies render the dead invisible by avoiding talking directly about them and by discarding their belongings whenever possible, and treating the belongings with a special level of care if it was not possible or very undesirable to discard them. Iulia Hasdeu summarizes the idea nicely, “The dead are to the Manush as the Manush are to the gadže: one doesn’t talk about them, but accords them a place in the cosmic order.” “In order to constitute their real presence,” Williams writes, “they have chosen to refer to real absence.” In other words, the silence of the living is what allows the voice of the dead to be heard, and this silence is held out of respect for the dead. Similarly, blogger Qristina Zavačková Cummings recently spoke of “Nostalgia as Forgetting”. Accordingly, Costandin is quite right to assume that any breach of this silence would be a curse. Aferim! is a Revisionist pox upon the “official” narrative of Gypsy slavery because it does much to break the silence about it. The film brings dishonor to the dead partisans of slavery in exposing them as the cruel, naïve, close-minded bigots that they were, and it may even bring shame to their descendants, those who have vicariously and transgenerationally inherited their attitudes. It was without a doubt for this very reason that King Carlos III of Spain demanded the erasure of any mention of the “Great Gypsy Round-up of 1749” (which resulted in decades of enslavement for Rroma in Spain) from the preamble to a new law on Gypsies in 1772 on the pretext that “it does little honor to the memory of my brother [Fernando VI].” [Antonio Gómez Alfaro, La Gran Redada de Gitanos, Ed. presencia gitana, Madrid, 1993. Page 9. ISBN 84-87347-09-6]

From an economic perspective, the minimizing, downplaying, and even outright denial of the reality of the 500 year period of enslavement of Rromani people is in line with the capitalist strategy of divide-and-rule, which uses race and ethnicity to drive a wedge between members of the working class. It also makes us overlook a major source of contribution to modern day wealth. Romanian slavery negationism perpetuates the invisibility of Rromani labor and the myth of the lazy Gypsy. Salome Kokoladze debunks this myth and shows in her article “Cooking in the Basement: The Invisibility of Romani Labor and the Profitable Discrimination” how social prejudice, alienating workplace conditions, and lack of legal recourse puts racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities at increased risk of hyper-exploitation, all while ensuring increased levels of good ol’ regular surplus-value-extractive exploitation for the more privileged poor (or, “middle class”) who are dimwitted enough to exalt themselves over their would-be comrades with the psychological wages afforded them by their white bourgeois heterosupremacist overlords.

(Warning: spoilers in the following paragraph)

Costandin illustrates the aforementioned middle class psychology in a lot of ways. He exalts himself over the slave Carfin, while he practically cowers in fear of the boyar Iordache. Costandin almost seems to redeem himself in a few instances. First, he shows skepticism towards the dehumanization of Rroma when he asks a priest if Gypsies are indeed human beings, and this priest says that they definitely are (but that Jews are inhuman and in Moldova they use Christians instead of horses to pull their carriages). Ioniță sympathizes with Carfin so much that he actually implores his father to release their captive, and tell Iordache that they could not find his slave, but Costandin rejects this on the basis that they won’t be paid if they do not retrieve the slave. He is not impervious to the injustice of it, but within the logical confines of this system, profit is simply higher on the priorities list. Costandin also humanizes Carfin to an extent when he assures him, after the latter begs to be set free for fear of being killed by his master, that Iordache will only give him some strikes of the whip for his misdeeds. He is putting “a human face” on slavery. When Costandin returns the slave, he even puts in a good word for him with his master, cautiously informing the boyar that the fault lies with Sultana. The woman and her infidelity are more to blame than Carfin, Costandin argues. But when Iordache gets ahold of his property, this myth of the possibility of a gentler slavery is, like Carfin, castrated. Aghast at this boyar’s perverted sense of justice, Costandin tells Ioniță that they should leave. His consolation for Ioniță: “He wasn’t your brother!” In the final scene, Costandin assures his son that his future is bright; he will join the army, fight some wars, and surely make an officer’s rank. Social atomization allows him to sacrifice others on the altar of his narrow self-interest.

Aferim! also sheds some light on what was the then crystallizing Romanian national identity. When, in a forest, Costandin and Ioniță come across a wealthy Ottoman travelling by carriage and asking for directions, Costandin revels in having sent him in the wrong direction, where he is likely to be attacked by bandits. He also dislikes Russians, and listens to a priest mock Hungarians. Director Radu Jude, in the same interview cited above, succinctly points out the hypocrisy in the fact that there is a commonly held belief in Romania, which basically amounts to a cliché, which says that many of the country’s problems are rooted in the fact that it has always been at the intersection of inter-imperialist conflicts, and yet many of the same people who express this idea are reluctant to consider that 500 years of slavery, which we are only 150 years distant from, might have left some significant traces on the present.

The film has solicited plenty of negative, defensive reactions from specimens exhibiting these petit bourgeois and nationalist psychologies. In an East that it is no longer “Red”, these mentalities are all the rage in some circles. These spectators are offended, not by the fact that the Orthodox Church was relatively recently a slave-owning institution, but by the fact that they are being reminded of it.

Film critic Elena Dulgheru derides Aferim! as, “the hipsterization of history”. Clamoring to sound the alarm bells of reverse racism, she writes:

“The movie pretends to speak about hate, discrimination, and ignorance, being itself made with hate and ignorance towards a misunderstood history, read from the screen of an iPod, scoffed at before being tackled; made with constant and sickly discriminatory incrimination of Orthodox clergy and faithful Christians as the principal causes of the so-called “Vlach backwardness”, so that you ask yourself if somehow the obsessive defamation of Orthodoxy and Romanianism, present from the first shot to the last, were [sic] not somehow the principal motivation for making the movie.”

In his review “What I understood from the film Aferim”, Gabriel Duca, in also describing this topsy-turvy world of oppressed white Christendom, quite rightly perceives the dual Red and Revisionist heritage at play in the film, though from a reactionary perspective:

“Well, how to start giving my opinion about Aferim!? Do you remember anticlerical propaganda from the 50s? While priests, monks, and nuns were thrown in Communist prisons, Party propaganda always brought forward stories about greedy priest and monk drunkards who kept the people in the darkness of unawareness and who sought only to fill their own pockets, wagering exactly on the people’s lack of culture, religion — opiate of the masses, etc.  Well, those old ideas (oldies, but goldies) that we thought long forgotten, we find them in Radu Jude’s multiple award-winning film Aferim!

What novelty does this film nevertheless yield? Yes, it’s a question of novelty. If films made by “The Party” presented the hard life of Romanians to show where we would have been left if “liberating Communism” would not have come, and films made after 1989 presented us with the sad life under Communism to show us where we would be without “democracy and European values”, Mr. Jude’s film combines these two “strategies”: clichés once presented by “The Party” are now understood through the prism of “liberty, tolerance, and European values”. Only by virtue of “tolerance” and these “values” have we arrived where we’ve arrived. Without them we would have remained primitive and boorish ignoramuses, like the characters in the film.”

In an East that has long since traded in its red flags for the blues of the EU and NATO, making a film that emphasizes the humanity of Rromani people might reasonably require receiving a grant from some occidental NGO’s. In this case, the film was sponsored in part by the Foundation for an Open Society, associated with George Soros, a business magnate and philanthropist of Hungarian and Jewish origin and a favorite boogeyman for imbeciles pushing the “Zionist Occupied Government” conspiracy theory. It is unfortunate that a genuine Left does not have the resources to fund more cultural projects like this. However, there should also not be any stake put in the myth of capitalism with a human face. Reformist progressives may from time to time help raise awareness of key issues to an extent (and reforms are certainly welcome on the path to upheaval), but Malcolm X hit the nail on the head when he said, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.” This is because capitalism–the system of rule by entities concerned with atomized financial gain–can only maintain itself if the masses are sufficiently lacking in awareness of how and why human rights are intrinsically violated by this system of rule and of the fact that they can act together to end this unjust situation. Because capitalism relies on instilling false consciousness–that is, dubious ways of perceiving one’s place and one’s relations to others in society, in the economy, on Earth–it is highly unlikely that these dubious ways of thinking can be fully extricated from the fabric of this system’s repressive and ideological state apparatuses. As Aferim! shows, promises of “gentler injustice”, especially those made by people who appear to speak with authority but who lack the actual power to make good on those promises, are likely to end in depraved perversity.

* [Updated on 11 September 2015]: Actually, the first film to depict slavery in Romania was a 1923 silent film called Gypsy Girl in the BedroomHowever, it is a lost film.


All works cited in compliance with the fair use doctrine.

“The Globalized Future” has arrived! (rrbb continues)

Greetings, comrades. Get out your blankies and turn on your night lights, because “The Globalized Future” is a spooky campfire story told by Marita in the Lacandon jungle after the radical gang of Santa Muerte worshippers has just done battle against government forces alongside the Zapatista militants. It is the 31st installment of Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax.

31 – The Globalized Future

In the year 2234, Ralph Rodgers worked at the Central Authority Agency. His job was to slaughter innocents across the globe in the name of hierarchy.

The Agency was the pinnacle of hierarchical perfection. All essential human wisdom had been relegated into the hands of the Agency. The brightest minds, the smartest fiends, and the maddest men: these were the people the Central Authority Agency had harnessed. These were the people the Agency bred. Constant oppression of the masses kept dissent to a bare minimum. Any outspoken criticism was instantly detected by the auditory mainframes, whose nodes saturated all aspects of automaton society, and was slated for brutal liquidation by the Automaton Dissent Repression Force.

The furthest a rebel movement had ever come to leading a revolution was in 2094, when the Human Liberation Army, in reality a rebellious and disillusioned sub-sect of low-level officers issued from within the Central Authority Agency, led a raid on the Authority Planning Center, a computer complex manned by hired guns in Langley, Virginia. The H.L.A. destroyed three mainframes in the Authority Planning Center. (How were the H.L.A. able to breach the Automaton Security Parameters? It was surely thanks to the Sonic Resistance Methods these rebels had picked up from the Central Africans in their campaign to automatize [or more precisely, automatonize] Sudan). With no computer systems managing the Central African Human Automaton Territory, chaos broke out in Central Africa. The mainframes which had been managing the delicate process of automatonization in the C.A.A.’s final colony in transition were unable to be rebooted in time before the Resistance solidified its hold over the consciousness of the Central Africans.

Central Africa was the last territory of the Earth to begin automatonization in the 2080s. By 2094, it had still not reached a fully automaton state. Resistance lingered in Central Africa. With the outbreak of chaos, the Central Africans found themselves subject to a war with the Agency’s puppet, the Central African Destruction Force on one side, and the Human Liberation Army on the other.

A wall had been constructed by the automatons around all of Central Africa. The area stretched from Cameroon to Kenya. Outside of this wall, automatonization continued as normal. The Central Authority Agency’s automatonization scheme was somewhat flawed however, in that whether it was a question of modifying human beings, or replacing them with artificial intelligences (both practices were commonplace—though the humans were not completely dispensable due to their function in organic intelligence spore production), there was always the risk that some particular element might not be perfectly rendered according to the directives of the mainframes. This was remedied by periodically re-implementing Electromagnetic Thought-Emotion Destruction Sequences.

Nevertheless, by the year 2234, Essential Automatonization had been achieved in all territories outside the Central African Containment Wall. However, also by this time, a new resistance to the Central Authority Agency had solidified. The resistance had become the religion of the underground. Resistance and religion were one in the same. The Central Africans worshipped anti-authority. This lack of respect for authority was crafted by a Central African shamanic storyteller, or djeli, to give the Central Africans a means of resisting the Central Authority Agency. It was the djeli who performed the rite of intense facial scarification on all newborns, replacing the baptism as a symbol for their eternal refusal to co-operate and their rejection of the dominant aesthetics of beauty. Religious Central Africans could not be reasoned with. They simply destroyed all hierarchy. This was done by living as wildly as possible. They ran through the forests, slaughtering all who they come across beyond the immediate family and shamanistic leaders. The exception of the immediate family existed only so that reproduction of the humans, and thus reproduction of the resistance, might continue. The shamans, meanwhile, used their powers to ward off the crazed survivors and rogue automatons of the global colonization.

This Afrikan Order grew so powerful that after all these years (2094-2234), the Central Authority Agency had not yet been able to stomp it out. Afrikan shamans held the esoteric knowledge behind the Human Liberation Army’s success in Langley in their hands. They passed on the old literature of resistance in strange and subtle forms from shaman to shaman, generation to generation. Through the laying on of hands in decentralized djeli-to-djeli networks, the Afrikan shamans were able to transmit communist literature in the form of organic files through melanocyte receptor swarms. This was how they understood the powerful resistance strategies of Comrade Mao Tse-Tung in order to sustain their people’s war against the oppressor.

The Central Authority Agency did have a plan though: slaughter each and every one of the free Central Africans. However, given the grand area and large jungles covering the territory, along with the way the Central Africans hid underground and in the trees, the Central Authority Agency was prevented from discovering the whereabouts of each and every Central African. Central Africa had become the final frontier in the struggle for a centralized global authority. With the destruction of the Central Africans, a central authority would guide mankind’s journey for the rest of existence. Humanity would indeed become one, now and forever. Once total control and power is achieved, none can escape its sanguine grasp.

Outside the Central African Containment Wall, automonization meant a life of mass psychological programming for the pawns of the Central Authority Agency. Collectively, they were bound to automaton-consciousness by the powerful mechanized aspects of mass computer consciousness. Automatonization was simply material reality. It could not be escaped; it was unfathomable for the de-spiritualized automaton mind. Only within the Central African Containment Wall did hope for freedom from oppression exist. The shamans gave strength to the Central Africans through their songs which glorified the brutal destruction of authority and planting the seed, or asili, of New Afrika.

This was the nature of things in 2234.

By 2235, the consciousness of the Central Africans reached a critical mass. No longer did they slaughter all beyond the immediate family, but they formed together a larger unit, a tribe dedicated to the destruction of authority, which was dubbed by some inside the Agency “The Egalitarian Sect”. Why had the Central Africans passed through this antisocial phase? It seemed that the trauma of isolation had rendered many of them insane, as it turns out would be the fate of the great majority of future humans and humanoids. Many of the so-called “Central Africans” were in fact not indigenous to this region, but refugees who had fled the settler-automatons from the north and the south.

The shamanistic leaders were those who had guarded the ancient wisdom of the ancestral spirits, thus preserving some degree of sanity in the face of the global mechanization process. The shamans judged by 2235 that the time had come to unleash the ancestral spirits, and so they decided to share with all Central Africans their wisdom of resistance. Soon enough all became literate, all read the holy texts of resistance, and all were empowered with the strength of the Anti-Authoritarian Spirit. All were shamans now. Together they gathered and communicated with the lwa, the spirits of their ancestors. The lwa showed them the path to victory. Many visions were seen and through the third eye of the shamanic unity, great comrades of past resistance movements manifested in ethereal forms and their powers were transmitted to them. First came Toussaint Louverture, then Bhagat Singh, Lei Feng, Vera Figner, and finally many others. All showed them the way, expressing one great truth: Liberation is necessary.

That same year, Ralph Rodgers was flying helicopter reconnaissance over the Central African war zone. Intelligence reports indicated that the Central Africans were indeed forming a new communal unit. Strange sightings of bright lights and other phenomena had been coming in from the peripheries of the territory where C.A.A. settler-automatons were stationed.

Ralph Rodgers was a good automaton. He knew how to obey authority very well. Little did Ralph know though that long ago, in the year AD 943, his ancestor had been bitten by a rabid wolf in the frozen forests of Norway. A Cosmic Afrikan djeli had accessed the wolf’s fangs by means of space-time warp-maneuvering aspects of the mega-verse. On the fangs of the wolf was placed the serum of self-hatred. The wolf sunk its fangs into Ralph Rodgers’ ancestor, and so the serum of self-hatred was intravenously introduced to the bloodstream. Science would later show that dormant aspects of the bloodline can be awakened at points in time remote from the mutant progenitor. As Ralph Rodger’s helicopter passed over an Afrikan shaman hiding in a tree, the serum of self-hatred was discreetly awakened by the passing. Suddenly Ralph Rodger’s mind was aroused by the hatred of his automatonized self. He could not help but to crash the helicopter, driving it towards the Earth. It exploded into a fiery ball of wreckage as it cascaded through the rainforest canopy. Branches flew every which way, brutally whipping his face into a hideous pulp. His corpse was disintegrated in the flames, and all Free Minds rejoiced. The wolf bitten spirit of his ancestor was released into the sunshine and then absorbed by many other automaton patrol-copters. They too were overwhelmed with wolf bitten spirit, and compelled by the realization of their worthlessness to crash into the tree tops. Those whose helicopters were equipped with automatic pilot ejection mechanisms were captured by mutant monkeys living in the rainforest canopy. The fate that awaited them was an even more gruesome one than had befallen Ralph Rodgers.

That night the Central Afrikans gathered on the spot where Ralph Rodgers had died. They rejoiced, knowing that soon the C.A.A. would fall apart as the oppressed masses inhaled the wolf bitten spirit.

Navigation scheme changes + 2 new RRBB chapters!

Yo, what up, blog reader?

Big announcement here: As you may have noticed, the navigation scheme for Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax has changed. Due to clutter issues and a problem with making an obscene quantity of menu items, I have done away with individual menu items for each chapter in RRBB.

The new navigation structure entails hovering your cursor over “Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax” on the upper part of the screen and clicking on the Part you would like to read from. You will then be directed to a Table of Contents for that Part with links to each chapter. When a new chapter becomes available, that chapter title will Look Like This. Additionally, there is now a “Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax” category (folder icon) which you can click on at the top of each posted chapter, allowing you to load all available chapters on one single page. Isn’t that clever? Aren’t I getting so good at this blogging shiz?!

In other news, two more chapter are now available, bringing Part Three: Obscurantism and Liberation to its halfway point.

In Chapter 29 “A Fortune-Telling Burlesque Becomes a Hotbed of Urban Guerrilla Activity”, we get new insight into the lives of Gabor and Fatiha, who have remained in America while the Radical Book Club and their cohorts carry out revolutionary acts in Mexico.

In Chapter 30 “Comandante Pedrocco Leads the Liberation Forces”, the Radical Book Club and their Santa Muerte-worshipping comrades join forces with the Zapatistas to fight the corrupt comprador bourgeoisie.

rrbb: 28 chapters now available

Greetings, illustrious readers of RAVING RADICALS BATHED IN BLAX. If you didn’t notice, Chapters 27 and 28 were posted over the last two days!

In Chapter 27 “Revolucionarios in Exile”, the Radical Book Club and their off the wall allies enter Mexico and prepare an epic assault on the estate of a right-wing drug trafficker.

In Chapter 28 “Federal Crust-Punk District”, the deranged members of the radical communist gang continue their journey, reaching Mexico City only to find that an people’s uprising has occurred and DF is now the Autonomous People’s Commune of Mēxihco Tenōchtitlan. There they make new friends, and might get more than they bargained for when they stumble across a gnarly hardcore punk moshpit.

Enjoy!

European Pop Act First of its Kind to Perform in Pyongyang

By Daniel K. Buntovnik

On August 19-20, 2015, the musical group Laibach will do a ‘Liberation Day’ tour of Pyongang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as North Korea. Chogukhaebangŭi nal or ‘Liberation of the Fatherland Day’, known in the West as ‘Victory over Japan Day’, commemorates the 1945 surrender of the Empire of Japan following a series of heinous crimes against humanity carried out by the American government against civilian non-combatants in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Laibach has generated a fair deal of controversy over the years, stemming mainly from their deliberately provocative appropriation of Nazi aesthetics, including the swastika and Schutzstaffel (SS) uniforms. The band was formed in Yugoslavia in June 1980, less than a month after the death of the iconic Balkan leader Josip Broz Tito. This corresponds precisely to the historical moment where ethno-separatist and nationalist trends began to rise sharply in Yugoslavia, culminating in a series of wars and atrocities leading to the country’s disintegration. The band sings in German (although not exclusively), and a bit of onomastic digging reveals that the band took its name from the German word for Ljubljana, the capital of the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia which was occupied by both Italian fascists and then Nazi Germans during the Second World War.

While the band’s visit is unlikely to signal the forthcoming addition of Pyongyang to the standard circuit for artists like Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, or Iggy Azalea, the show is still remarkable for a number of reasons.

First, North Korea is seen as a pariah — it’s hard to imagine another country whose level of political and cultural isolation rivals that of the DPRK. Earlier this year, state functionaries in the US imposed a new round of sanctions after accusing it of waging “cyberwarfare” on Sony Pictures in retaliation for The Interview, a would-be comedy turned yellowface propaganda film depicting the assassination of the country’s head of state which was produced in collaboration with the CIA. The Interview and the ensuing real world conflict it helped escalate aren’t the only recent of examples of this imperialist entertainment complex rearing its ugly head. In 2012, a remake of the 1985 film Red Dawn depicted a North Korean invasion and occupation of the United States, an absurd scenario by any stretch of the imagination. Meanwhile, the US, whose weapons of mass destruction stockpile dwarfs that of North Korea, continues to carry out war games in the region on a regular basis which simulate bombing and invasion.

Though the DPRK is still in a de jure state of war, that hasn’t stopped Westerners, including businesspersons, tourists, artists, athletes, educators, and journalists from travelling there. In 2009, Swedish fashion company Noko Jeans became the first foreign capitalists to import trousers tailored in the DPRK. Norwegian artist Morten Traavik has collaborated with North Korean artists and cultural authorities and is the one largely responsible for coordinating Laibach’s ‘Liberation Day Tour’. Former NBA star Dennis Rodman generated a big brouhaha as well when he made visits to North Korea with Vice Media. And despite censorship, the DPRK even recruits Westerner educators to teach in its school system. Laibach follows in the footsteps of all these people, but breaks ground in at least one outstanding way: it is the first foreign musical group to play in North Korea, as far as anyone can recall.  

All of these signs point towards a timid rapprochement between the Kim dynasty and the West as it struggles to survive in a global geopolitical climate which is generally hostile to it. This is mirrored in this year’s re-establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba, another state hit heavily by imperialist sanctions where private enterprises have made significant inroads. Nevertheless, these developments demonstrate that, contrary to the bourgeois media narrative, these reclusive states are not isolationist entirely by choice, but largely as a consequence of sanctions and embargoes imposed by the Global North.

Laibach is set to play their shows at the Kim Won Gyun Conservatory, exposing approximately 2,000 people to their spectacle over the course of two days; that’s around 0.008% of the country’s population. While little seems to be known for certain about who will be amongst those eight-thousandths of a percent of the populace in attendance, or about the process citizens must go through to gain entry to the event, bourgeois journalists speculate that the audience will be made up virtually entirely of Workers’ Party of Korea apparatchiks and/or their children.

To what extent Laibach will play up its ‘totalitarian’ image (which is otherwise its defining element) while in Korea, and whether Laibach will leave a significant impression on the North Korean public in terms of their idea of ‘The Occident’ at large remains to be seen. There are nevertheless a few things we can examine here.

Nazi Image

Laibach is well-known for giving off a Nazi vibe. While some attempt to label it ‘totalitarian’ — dubiously equating Nazism with Communism — their aesthetic firmly remains predominantly Nazi. Recurring colors in promotional material and music videos are red, black, and white. Uniforms worn on stage, in music videos, and in promo photos are obviously based on the SS. They sing in German. They have white skin. All of this has made a lot of people question whether these musicians might be supporters of the far right.

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Laibach’s ‘Classic Nazi’ look, circa 2003

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Even with their newer, toned-down look (2011), the group would still not look out of place at a Neo-Nazi rally:

neonazi-2012

Jeff Schoep, leader of America’s largest Hitlerian hate group, speaks at a Neo-Nazi rally in 2012. As you can see, Neo-Nazi fashion trends follow a similar trajectory to that of Laibach.

The same question arises, and with all the more frequency, with regards to Laibach’s more commercial, more bro-ish, and less original little brother, Rammstein. In fact, Laibach anticipated a whole movement of Nazi-themed industrial and metal music. ‘National Socialist Black Metal’ (NSBM) exploded in the 1990s with explicitly pro-white supremacist lyrics. But other groups took the Laibach route: Nazi imagery combined with a (supposed) sense of ironic detachment. Perhaps the most notorious example of this kind of group is Hanzel und Gretyl. Like Laibach, this New York-based industrial rock band sings mostly in German and English and they incorporate space elements as well (see Iron Sky, a nearly unwatchable sci-fi film about a Nazi moon colony for which Laibach produced the soundtrack). In a 2009 interview, Hanzel und Gretyl give the following answer when questioned about the Nazi nature of their music:

Vas [Gretyl]: “No, it’s not Nazi music!”

Loopy [Hanzel]: “I think the person should react however they’re gonna react. I mean, we’re just sort of putting it out there. It’s a… maybe an extreme mode of expression and it’s gonna elicit different types of reactions. And that’s what we’re most interested in. We’re just putting it out here to see what happens. It’s not hate inspired.”

Vas [Gretyl]: “We just like to have fun!”

What has happened is that, even if we take at face value the dubious claim that their music wasn’t hate-inspired, it has indeed inspired haters. Their song “Third Reich From the Sun” was uploaded by Youtube user “88nordichate” (88 means ‘Heil Hitler’ in Neo-Nazi numerology, H being the eighth letter of the alphabet) over five years ago and has a comments section riddled with pro-white supremacist statements. “88nordichate” has uploaded dozens of other Neo-Nazi and Neo-Confederate videos, among them two other Hanzel und Gretyl music videos. The fact that Hanzel und Gretyl and Metropolis Records haven’t reported these videos for copyright infringement after more than half a decade would indicate that Hanzel und Gretyl and/or their manager either: (a) don’t ever use or check Youtube (unlikely), (b) don’t mind hate groups and bigots using their music as a platform for outreach and networking, or (c) haven’t experienced any backlash from their fans, whose political views range anywhere from apolitical to extreme right-wing.

The inner cover sleeve of Laibach’s third studio album, Opus Dei, features the following image created by John Heartfield (1934), a man regarded as an innovator in the instrumentalization of art towards political ends. Heartfield was a communist and one of the first people to be persecuted by the Nazi regime after it came to power:

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Subtext reads: “Blood and Iron – The slogan which Bismarck formulated lives again in the new German state. The executioners’ bloodstained axes form the Nazi swastika.”

Traavik, the Norwegian who sold the DPRK on a Laibach show, says that Laibach are “not a band making statements, but a band that is always questioning contemporary attitudes.”

Surely Heartfield wanted to make a statement with his above artwork. And one would be hard-pressed to accept that a group of men wearing SS uniforms and grunting in German about fascism, witchcraft, and NATO are merely “questioning contemporary attitudes”. Even if you did accept that, a question is also a statement insofar as it reflects the interest of the one who asks it. Using music as a tool for posing questions makes Laibach’s orientation instrumentalist. A critique of instrumental artwork must evaluate how effectively, and to what practical ends, that art is instrumentalized.

Dubious Exoneration

One of Laibach’s most famous contemporary countrymen is the anti-capitalist psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek. He has defended both Laibach and Rammstein from critics who say that their fetish for Nazi militarist iconography could be dangerous. Not only does Zizek exonerate them of any wrongdoing, but he actually goes so far as to say that their approach is “fighting Nazism”.

“The minimal elements of the Nazi ideology enacted by Rammstein are something like pure elements of libidinal investment,” Slavoj Zizek informs us in the documentary film The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012) as frontman Till Lindemann goose-steps across a stage. “Enjoyment has to be, as it were, condensed in some minimal ticks, gestures which do not have precise ideological meaning. What Rammstein does is it liberates these elements from their Nazi articulation. It allows us to enjoy them in their pre-ideological state. The way to fight Nazism is to enjoy these elements, ridiculous as they were here, by suspending the Nazi’s horizon of meaning. This way you undermine Nazism from within.”

Short of a time machine, these elements, gestures or constellations of “minimal ticks” can never be returned to a “pre-ideological state”. Zizek is actually appealing to de-politicization/decontextualization or, at best, ideological dilution. “Suspending the Nazi’s horizon of meaning” is not possible without cultural amnesia. This is not the way to fight Nazism, at least according to survivors of the death camps, who are some of the strongest advocates of memory. The very idea of being able to de-politicize the iconography of Nazi militarism, strip it bare of its Nazi significance, is akin to the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency’s ludicrous goal of expunging Nazi war criminals of their genocidal past in the post-World War II US government program Operation Paperclip, which was done for the same reason Zizek puts forth here: to nicely bring the German scientists to a pre-ideological state where their “enjoyable” elements were then accessible in the form of strategic scientific knowledge and data — at the expense of justice.

As we have seen in the case of Hanzel und Gretyl, the injection of Nazi elements into a “pre-ideological [de-politicized] state” is liable to attract and mobilize those who genuinely admire and romanticize Nazism.

In the best case scenario, the majority of those attracted to the band will be apolitical folks who simply find it interesting or enjoy the sound of the music and don’t care to examine its deeper message, while a minority will appreciate the work as a political critique and be strengthened or encouraged in adopting an anti-fascist worldview. Here live performances may even function as political sociodramas, which are a form of group psychodrama. Kellerman (2007) writes in Sociodrama and Collective Trauma, “In sociodrama groups that explore the effects of oppressive regimes and totalitarian political systems, it may be suitable to suggest that group members show this situation in action.”

Nevertheless, the worst case scenario, that of spreading romanticization and fetishization of militarist iconography (and by extension, militarism itself) among fans remains possible, even for Laibach, no matter the group members’ intentions. It would be no stretch of the imagination to envision the baby killers in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 getting psyched up on a Laibach track instead of the Bloodhound Gang’s “The Roof is on Fire”. It’s also been said that the perpetrators of the Beslan school siege listened to Rammstein during the event. De-politicization allows anyone, including Nazis and terrorists, to make the music theirs and instrumentalize it towards politically reactionary ends.

There are still other reasons why this would-be de-politicization or decontextualization of swastikas, goose-stepping, black and brown shirts, arm bands, etc. can be regarded as dangerous.

The mass psychology of fascism is alive and well in today’s world. The authoritarian family, rabid middle classes, crises of free market liberal democracy are all part of our 21st century world. Only when these things have been done away with will it be theoretically possible to divorce the elements of fascism from their horizon of meaning. The mere popularization of the constellation of elements is an indicator of a rising tide of vituperativeness amongst the petite bourgeoisie. Laibach are not licensed therapists qualified to carry out mass sociodrama. They are a rock band.

Whether people are making “libidinal investments” into a militaristic parade or into a performance of musicians on a stage at a consumerist venue, the fact that libidinal energy is being sublimated into anything at all means that everyone involved is a victim of a society which has made them feel that their naturally occurring animalian desires are unacceptable and that they should instead somehow divert that into “higher” desires like rigidly extending their arms at a forty five degree angle towards the Great Leader or enjoying consumeristic musical venues. The latter is all the more insidious precisely because it has become the more acceptable and palpable means of social control. War and genocide in their 21st century forms continue without the former, and are made possible in part by the latter.

Undermining Authoritarianism from Without

Do we really need to get into Nazism in order to undermine it, as Slavoj Zizek suggests?

We might consider some alternative perspectives on this issue to counterbalance Zizek’s.

In 1940, indigenous peoples in North America resolved to disown the swastika, a symbol which had been theirs previous to the rise of Nazism in Europe.

28 Feb 1940, Tucson, Arizona, USA --- 2/28/40-Tucson, Arizona: Florence Smiley and Evelyn Yathe, Navajos of Tucson, Arizona are shown signing the imposing parchment document which formally outlawed the Swastika symbol from designs in Indian art, such as basket and blanket weaving. Four tribes, Navajos, Papagos, Apaches and Hopis banned the symbol which was in use by the Indians long before it came to have a sinister significance. The document tells why Indians banned it. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Signing the resolution

In his 1964 autobiography, Romanichal actor Charlie Chaplin wrote of his 1940 film The Great Dictator, “Had I known of the actual horrors of the German concentration camps, I could not have made The Great Dictator, I could not have made fun of the homicidal insanity of the Nazis.”

thegreatdictator

Charlie Chaplin as “The Great Dictator”

Perhaps instead of tolerating, much less enjoying, these elements from within, the best way to fight Nazism is to recognize that the measure of free speech we have under private market liberal democracy and the lack of it under private market fascist dictatorship are really two sides of the same coin. Instead we must practice social responsibility and censor, ban, and lay utter waste to Nazism and fascism from without. We ought personally admonish fascist fucks in an intense and intimidating fashion and culturally repress their desire to be antisocial dickheads until they are forced to take their blasted libidinal investment in other directions. But with this blatantly outrageous and over the top censure bordering on obscene levels of anti-fascist bravado must also come a willingness to patiently and calmly explain why only revolutionary socialism can undo our hierarchical societies’ horrific injustice.


All works cited in compliance with the fair use doctrine.

RRBB reaches its 26th installment

Greetings, comradely readers. Quick update. Another exhilarating chapter of Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax is ready for you to read. It’s called “Part III, Chapter 26 – The Fascist Police State Tightens its Grip” and it stars General Johnson, Agents Rollins and Pataki, Gabor, and Fatiha, among others. May you relish it with the same level of relish that you have relished previous chapters!

The saga of the “Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax” continues

Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax is back in force after an approximate 2 week break. That’s today’s big, exciting news, folks. I’ve just made the first chapter of “Part III: Obscurantism and Liberation” available to the masses. It’s the 25th chapter in the novel and it’s called “Hit the Road, slapte”.

As a side note, due to a glitch with wordpress, I wasn’t able to make a category with a comma in it, so I used a low double quotation marks character („) for the menu item which you use to navigate through the chapters.

In this chapter, the Radical Book Club and their Santa Muerte-worshipping and crust-punk comrades begin to make their way to Latin America in a bid to escape the militarist regime of General Johnson and further their revolutionary cause. This is surely a timely chapter, and reality is reflecting art once again as the populist spectacle of anti-immigrant sentiment continues to unfold around us, and not just from where you would think.

Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax – Part II: “Taken to Another Level” concludes + UPCOMING DELAYS EXPECTED

Greetings, my illustrious readers. With the publication of Chapter 24: “Burning Questions of the Movement”, Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax reaches its halfway point. This chapter concludes Part II: “Taken to Another Level”, leaving only parts III and IV, “Obscurantism and Liberation” and “Instauration”.

In other news, Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax will now enter intermission. Please take this time to relax, reflect on what you have read, attend free parties, and agitate for socialism: the lowest stage of post-capitalism. Part III: “Obscurantism and Liberation” will begin dissemination phase on August 15, 2015.